Prospect Pulse: Riley Nash
I had the opportunity to watch Riley Nash for two games last weekend when Cornell paid a visit to Grand Forks. After reading quite a bit about the Oilers’ first-rounder, I was excited to see him live and was not disappointed in his showing. Nash is, as advertised, a strong but not overpowering skater, defensively responsible and a threat with the puck.
Though he is relatively tall, (about 6′ or so) he looks like he needs to bulk up before moving on to professional hockey. He took quite a few draws against fellow Oiler prospect Chris Vande Velde, who at 200 pounds plus made Nash look very skinny. On the bright side, Nash adequately handled Vande Velde in the faceoff circle and never backed down in a scrum. In fact, he displayed a certain amount of sandpaper that I did not know existed in his game.
On the offensive side, he scored a very nice breakaway goal on Friday night when he snuck in behind the Sioux defenders and beat their goalie clean. The goal was nice to watch in person, but very impressive on tape where you can see that he was able to lure the goalie right with a slight head fake and shoot the puck in the open side. So nice I watched it twice. He also had a nice assist on a play where he retrieved the puck in the corner and found a defensman streaking into the slot. To me, both plays illustrated an acute sense of what was going on the ice and the ability to take advantage of the play. In general, I found him to be a threat to score nearly every time he had the puck in the offensive zone and was impressed by his willingness to shoot from anywhere and drive hard to the net.
Defensively, he was quite sound and won more battles than he lost despite his size limitations. His coverage is also sound and he seems to always be on the right side of his man in the defensive zone.